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Thread: Playing in various keys

  1. #1
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    Default Playing in various keys

    Iíve recently taught myself to play in most of the common keys, namely A, C, D, F, G... Iím wondering about the key of E, though - how do you guys usually do it?

    I personally can do the following key of E shapes - A: 2100, B: 4322, E: 4442, C#m: 6444, F#m: 2120. It works decently enough for me because most of it is moving the A shape up and down the neck (for E I smush the top 3 strings on the 4th fret). Iím just wondering if itís worth the effort to continue to practise this, or to just capo at 2nd fret and use key of D shapes.

    And I suppose I might as well ask this - what about the key of B, or even the flat keys? I guess itís different for everyone, but any thoughts?

  2. #2
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    I decided instead of fighting the "dreaded" E chord, I just practice until I get it, just like any other chord with an unfamiliar shape. Worked for me.

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    Last edited by kohanmike; 01-14-2018 at 05:54 AM.

  3. #3
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    "Worth it" is relative. What do you want to be able to do? There's only one way to learn to play in E without a capo...

    As for other keys, Bb and Eb are going to be the most common flat keys. Again, depends on how much you want to know. You never regret practicing in my experience. The day you want to jam in Ab you'll really appreciate that you put in the time to learn it.
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  4. #4
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    I just use the easy E chord: 1X02, and it makes playing in E easier than playing in C. After all, in E the IV and V chord are the same thing just moved a tone.

  5. #5
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    Interestingly the only 2 muted string chords I play E (1x02) and C#m (220x) belong to that E-key. It sounds better than 6444 to me.
    You asked also about flat keys. I play this kind of exercise regularly, chord sequences, from 4 flats to 4 sharps.

    I V vim IV, I iiim iim7 V7, I iiim iim V, I IV V7, vim iim III7, I vim IV V7. These are the current degrees and sequences I play. The point being that in every key the degrees get known by heart. The second point is technical fingering exercise.
    C G Am F, C Em Dm7 G7, C Em Dm G, C F G7, Am Dm E7, C Am F G7 -they are in key of C and its relative minor key.

    Initially the above will be quite difficult to learn in all those keys, but it will become after practice as easy as in the key of C.

  6. #6
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    I forgot about the second part of the question. My absolute favorite key is Ab (which are the first two letters of absolute). I like Ab because it is the lowest key on my low G ukulele that doesn't use open strings (and I don't prefer open strings because I can't control them). I like to finger pick my pentatonic shapes and with Ab I can hit all five of them although the fifth shape could be a bit cramped for people who cannot get up to the 14th fret. And the chord progressions in Ab aren't too difficult. My biggest hurdle is the vi chord, F minor. The Ab maj7 is a snap for easy jazz stuff. And I like the vibe of Ab. To my ear, there seems to be something strained about the key. Even when it is trying to be normal, it can't quite do it even though all its intervals are the same as something like C.

  7. #7
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    There's nothing wrong with putting a capo on the second fret and playing D shapes for the key of E. LOTS of famous guitar based songs are doing this. Same for the flat/sharp keys. If you see a song written in an odd key then odds on it was played with a capo.

    Having said that. The key of E major is a common key for a lot of Blues or Rock&Roll songs so if you want to be able to play songs in their original key then its good practice to be able to play the E major key chords.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonyg View Post
    There's nothing wrong with putting a capo on the second fret and playing D shapes for the key of E. LOTS of famous guitar based songs are doing this. Same for the flat/sharp keys. If you see a song written in an odd key then odds on it was played with a capo.
    Guitar is much harder to play in many keys and also it has 6 strings to barre and more limited amount of chords to utilize all the strings same time. It has so called guitar keys, that are suited to certain idioms and licks of play. So capo is a really useful tool for (acoustic/classical) guitar.

    Ukulele and capo is not such an ideal combination. We need allow our left hand move freely near the nut and capo does get in the way. But nothing wrong if using it in some special cases, just that they are fewer than with guitar.

    I recommend learning keys without capo.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarmo_S View Post
    Guitar is much harder to play in many keys and also it has 6 strings to barre and more limited amount of chords to utilize all the strings same time. It has so called guitar keys, that are suited to certain idioms and licks of play. So capo is a really useful tool for (acoustic/classical) guitar.

    Ukulele and capo is not such an ideal combination. We need allow our left hand move freely near the nut and capo does get in the way. But nothing wrong if using it in some special cases, just that they are fewer than with guitar.
    I recommend learning keys without capo.
    Sure. Yet there is nothing wrong with using a capo either. For the record I don't use a capo however I have no qualms about transposing the original key of a song to a key that suits my voice better either.

    To me its about road blocks. In musical performance and MANY other pursuits you will come across an attitude that things HAVE to be done a certain way.

    No they don't.

    Ignore the naysayers and the trolls and find your own way to play and enjoy music.

    For the record. I play mostly tenors mostly tuned E,A,C#,F# with baritone strings. The ukulele just sounds better like this to my ears. As I'm a professional busker I find the audience likes it too and I get a LOT of comments about how good my ukulele sounds.
    I'm effectively in Baritone/Guitar tuning with a capo on the second fret. I play in the key of E regularly by using Guitar D maj shapes or G maj shapes to regular ukulele players. When I use the chord shapes described by the OP then I'm playing in the key of C# maj. Guitarists usually play in the key of E using the shapes that ukulele players call the key of A. For me its the key of F#.

    It IS good to understand the theory but then use the theory to play things your own way.

    EDIT: If you received a notification of this post it may be a bit messed up. I hope its sorted now.
    Last edited by anthonyg; 01-14-2018 at 11:57 AM.

  10. #10
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    I've taken to playing almost everything on a soprano tuned ADF#B.

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